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Congress to Navy:Stop Shrinking!

February 25, 2010
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Often you seem to lose confidence in almost anything done by Congress, then someone like Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss comes along to restore some sanity. Here is Chris Cavas at Defense News who will explain:

“I want to put you on notice,” Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., told the Navy’s top officials Feb. 24. “Decommissioning 10 ships this year is unacceptable.
“It is my intention that for every three ships that are commissioned, we give permission to decommission two. We need to stop the bleeding this year.”…

“I have tried to give them the benefit of the doubt over the years,” Taylor said. “I’ve listened to three [chiefs of naval operations] and three Secretaries of the Navy tell me they want a 313-ship Navy, but their request doesn’t match what they say. So if they won’t match their own request in writing, if they won’t do it administratively, then I am – with the support of Chairman Skelton – saying we’ll do it legislatively. You’re going to commission three for every two you retire.”

So does this mean the Navy way of buying fewer ships than it decommissions is causing the Navy to shrink? Can’t be, since all the Navy studies suggest less equals more, right? Are you saying 1 ship replacing 4 won’t increase our number of ships, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus?

“We think we’ve reached a pretty good balance between type of ships, numbers of ships and afordability of ships,” Mabus said. “The [budget] and the longer plan are both realistic and will allow us to meet all the missions that we have.
“The ships we are planning to decommission have either reached or are right at the end of their service life,” Mabus added. “But the ships we are decommissioning now are there, at the end of their service life. We’ve done a very detailed, very in-depth study of the difference between a service life extension for them versus buying new, more capable ships, and the case is pretty strong to buy the new ships and not try to extend those that we have.”

Blah, blah, blah! The same “in-depth studies” have consistently given us more of the same ships, only they are more expensive, fewer in numbers, and in no ways prepared to meet future threats; ships that are harder to build, technically faulty, and consistently delayed in entering service. Then, when they finally do enter service, they aren’t used in any manner worthy of their high price tag, neither can they be ordered in the numbers promised initially in order to get to a 313 ship Navy.

Time to throw out the book (and maybe some of those people who still adhere to it) and return to basics in shipbuilding and essentials in warfare.

*****

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 27, 2010 8:54 am

    I agree completely with your statements, Graham. We have a addiction to spending, which pervades the government, but our interest here is defense. The military has got into a habit of high tech solutions for low tech problems giving us weapons which are so heavenly wonderful they are of little good. Some minor successes, as with the Marine snipers you pointed out, or disaster relief in Haiti are used to justify the most complicated and expensive arms in all history, making the Manhattan Project look like another day at the office.

    Their answer is always, “we must prepare for unknown threats”, but I still can’t grasp how making the force smaller is sound planning. They say they are worried about China, but this nation is expanding their fleet, and they aren’t waiting for high tech break-throughs in dual band radar, electronic propulsion, or lasers to do it. They are building vessels for power and presence and are sending them worldwide.

    Likewise the pirates and rogue states are using whatever vessels are available to expand their influence. Recently we mocked the Iranians for deploying a so-called destroyer, actually a corvette based on a 1970s British ship. Isn’t it ironic that all our new-build destroyers of the Burke class are updated versions of a ship first developed in the 1970s?

    As you say the world navies are deploying ships more than adequate for our needs, at vastly less cost than anything we possess. I am still amazed at those European Aegis defense ships which are cheaper than the frigate sized, patrol boat armed LCS.

    We often criticize our allies for not spending enough on defense. Maybe on some things this is true, but as far as the Navy they have it just about right and we are spending way too much for decline and mediocrity.

  2. Graham Strouse permalink
    February 27, 2010 6:50 am

    Mike,

    I don’t know if you’ve suffered through my most recent rant regarding the politics of miitary acquisition & relevant (and inappropriate, IMHO) political discussion topics for this forum.

    For the time being, however, while we continue to debate the clusterf*?! that is our procurement process, perhaps we need to start looking at different angles for shoring up defenses in international waters.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that the US is overly dependent on big-deck carriers & heavy missile ships. Using a Burke to sweep up pirates puts me in mind of the final scene of “Caddyshack” where Bill Murray saturates the golf course with plastic explosives to kill one gopher. It’s too expensive, wipes out the greens & in the end, the gopher lives. And dances a little jig.

    I don’t even want to talk about our CVNs right now. I’m not sure what they’re suited for given the nature of our current conflicts. Our best power projection units are the SSNs, SSGNs & to a lesser extent, the Ticos & Burkes.

    What we do have is a lot of command ships/motherships (DDGs, cruisers & helo carriers). We slough off after that. Badly.

    Perhaps what we need to do for the time being is integrate our surface & submarine forces with other NATO members more effectively. The Nordic navies, Koreans, Japanese & Germans (to pull a sample) all have excellent small warships & can contribute some pretty effective command/motherships in a pinch (I’m thinking of the Hyuga & Absalon here). The Germans still build the best conventional subs in the world.

    You see where I’m going?

    Integrated NATO forces with less emphasis on US capital ships, save for their command and control capabilities & more responsibility (and yes, leadership) from allied navies, might be able to accomplish more then our carrier/battleship-centric forces.

    Partly this means we have to swallow our pride a bit and be willing to sometimes cede control of a TF to the Captain of Absalon or Hyuga. Partly it means out allies need to step it up & be willing to commit more of their resources to anti-terror & anti-piracy TFs.

    With greater power comes greater responsibility and all that.

    I still can’t help thinking about the four Navy SEALs with long guns hanging off the back of a Burke & popping those Somali Pirates to rescue one guy.

    Kudos to the shooters but that was still an almost farcical waste of resources. The shooters could have been stationed on a fishing trawler. Or the SS Minnow.

    Until we can effectively deploy a navy more relevant to our real needs or coordinate more effectively with NATO partners whose units are more appropriate to the conflicts we’re really dealing with, we will, ultimately, spend ourselves into oblivion with inappropriate procurement & deployement of battleships & other high-end, high-cost units for conflicts they are not suited to deal with on their own.

    The USSR bankrupted itself playing oneupsmanship in the Cold War & fighting a hopeless war in Afghanistan. Are we going to do the same thing chasing Somali pirates with missile destroyers and…er…fighing a hopeless war in Afghanistan?

    Hope not.

  3. Chris Stefan permalink
    February 26, 2010 12:42 am

    Really, I think the LCS is best for the coast guard. But we have to see what the Navy’s new Air – Sea battle concept is.

    I don’t think the USCG wants to be saddled with the overpriced, overweight, and expensive to own LCS.

    Better the Navy buy a frigate variant of the NSC for $400 million and maybe some FRC for those jobs where a NSC is just too big or expensive.

  4. Scott B. permalink
    February 25, 2010 4:05 pm

    Mike Burleson said : “Often you seem to lose confidence in almost anything done by Congress, then someone like Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss comes along to restore some sanity.”

    You give far too much credit to a guy like Gene Taylor.

    Below is a repost from September 2009 :

    ***************************************************************

    Personnaly, I like this quote from the link entitled Head of House seapower panel endorses Navy LCS plan. :

    “Taylor said he was “inclined to support” the restructure plan and is hopeful it will help get the cost of each ship “as close to $460 million as humanly possible.”

    Now contrast the above with what the statement Taylor made during the subcommittee mark-up of the FY2010 NDAA : (emphasis added) :

    “I am very concerned with the progress of cost reduction in the Littoral Combat Ship program. I will not go into detail here and the list of mistakes made in this program because we would be here for most of the day if I did. But this year is a ’take it or leave it ‘year for the LCS. I asked the Assistant Secretary of the Navy if $460 million was a fair price for the vessel with the current efficiencies of the two shipyards. He believed it was a fair price for the procurement costs of the ship, but that he had government costs for oversight and life-cycle management that would be hard to fit under the current cost cap.

    Therefore, this mark proposes to re-structure the cost cap to allow for a total procurement cost of $460 million per vessel. The contractor can take it or leave it. As Chairman, I will not propose one penny more. If the contractors take it, fine; we build ships and get the mine-hunting capability the CNO needs for the fleet.

    If the contractors do not take it, the proposal would direct the Secretary to use the funds authorized to compile a technical data design package that could be bid to other contractors who might take it. No more games on this program, no more promises. Build ships for a fair price or not, that is the deal on the table.“

    Consequently, I feel obliged to withdraw any positive opinion I might have expressed concrning Gene Taylor in the past : this guy is just another SURRENDERER !

  5. Mike Burleson permalink*
    February 25, 2010 2:44 pm

    “It would be a mistake to make the Navy into a gunboat navy, just to get lots of ships.”

    Except that is how its being used! Our expensive new LCS frigate just caught some drug smugglers. An Aegis missile destroyer just saved some Tanzanians from pirates!

    What is wrong with “building as you fight”? Its the Navy they want, not the one they need.

  6. Total permalink
    February 25, 2010 2:04 pm

    The Navy needs money to handle its current ships, I bet most of the decommissioning ships are the resupply, UNREP type of ships that are not as sexxy as light corvettes and are too old.

    That is incorrect, but thanks for playing!

    Four frigates, a nuclear submarine, three amphibious ships, and three ammo ships. So, only the latter fits your description, really.

  7. ArkadyRenko permalink
    February 25, 2010 12:53 pm

    The Navy needs money to handle its current ships, I bet most of the decommissioning ships are the resupply, UNREP type of ships that are not as sexxy as light corvettes and are too old.

    It would be a mistake to make the Navy into a gunboat navy, just to get lots of ships. Instead, the Navy should find a middle group between the LCS and the DDG-51.

    The National Security Cutter could provide the halfway hangout between those two classes.

    Really, I think the LCS is best for the coast guard. But we have to see what the Navy’s new Air – Sea battle concept is.

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